On the Eve

24 December 2008

Listening for the first time to the new Emmy Lou…All I intended to be…sweet soulful sounds …with the backdrop of a silvery ice storm outside the studio windows.

Icy rain glazing every limb, fence rail, bird feeder, pine needle and windchime.

Gulliver and I put on our ice trackers and harnessed up for the early morning commute. Helping each other to avoid the slick walkways and frozen puddles in the lane, we managed just fine. Outside chores are done and the pot of coffee is fired up so we have settled into the office to pay some bills and work on a special project for LRK…one of the latter will be great fun.

Pat reports that dear friend May just can’t figure out why her 95 year old self won’t die. When Pat arrived at her hospital bedside yesterday she found May well along her way…then Pat’s cell phone rang…and May opened her eyes and asked what was for lunch.

My hospice worker of a  partner has seen a lot of death and dying. Through yesterday’s  tears for her mentor-friend she was yanked back to the humor and laughter that weaves through the  compassion which is the core of her soul. 

And as I wrote that sentence…Emmy’s cover of Tracy Chapman’s “All that you have is your soul” began playing…that’s been happening a lot to me lately.

“…I hope to dream, I hope that I can sleep again

And wake in a world with a clear conscience and clean hands…”

It’ll be hard to think of waking up in a world without you May…but for now…for today…on the eve of the end of your journey here…keep dreaming.

Multum In Parvo

Multum In Parvo

Solstice Soup

21 December 2008

Mushroom Soup Ingredients

So I got an email this morning from Maureen…

Hi Heather and Pat,

Just wanted to let you know I received the birthday chocolates in the mail.  What a treat, having treats delivered!  You can never have too much chocolate.

I have also been trying to plan a Christmas meal for Peter and I that is a good vegetarian meal that we don’t usually eat.  I thought of the mushroom barley soup Peter said you used to make that he loved.  I have made the one in the Moosewood cookbook and I was wondering if you used that recipe or a different one.  If you have a minute today or tomorrow could you send it along?(if your share recipes!!!) We would love to have it is a new Follansbee tradition (the kids will probably never eat it but who knows!) Thanks.

Have a great holiday – stay all cuddled up and warm.  We are planning to do the same.



AND…as so often happens in this wonderful life…our worlds, and in this case our cuilinary spirits, weave through and around each other in a delightful dance…

Hey there Maureen,
we were mostly proud of ourselves for remembering when you said that you always wished for them…made us happy.
And, your timing is perfect ! I have a refrigerator full of ingredients to make that mushroom soup tonight…in honor of the longest night of the year.
Hoping that Paul Winter might be doing his Solstice concert in the newly renovated Cathedral of St. John the Divine in NYC tonight….if the radio covers it that it would be a wonderful evening.
I just spent the morning going through my favorite Vineyard cookbook planning out something simple and yet elegant for our day after with our kids. This year there will only be 4 coming and one is a strict vegan so she’s bringing her own meal. 
OK the soup.
The king of memory has perhaps confused my soup with another because I never added barley…although it would be a very nice tree-hugging addition.
I’ll give you the basic recipe, at least what I aim for, and you can wing it from there.
It will take you longer to read this than to make it.
Prop up your feet, pop a chocolate cherry in your mouth, and off ya go…
Heather’s Mushroom Soup
Mushrooms  ( lots, can’t have too many…I’d say at least 6-8 cups sliced…right now I have two of those big containers from the grocery store, and if you want to add some of the wild and wooly kind that are certainly available in your neck of the woods go right ahead…just don’t let the kids pick them.  AND don’t wash them ! They are little sponges and you will have a watery mess in a soup. Just wipe off the biggest clods of dirt…the rest is good for ya )
Leeks   ( 3 or 4 depending on the size )
Shallots  (don’t really need them and they are expensive right now so I didn’t get them this time but they do add a lovely layer of rich flavor)
Flour ( can use whole wheat if you want but it does make it a bit grittier )
Chicken or Vegetable stock  (now adays I use the ones that are organic and come in a juicy juice kinda box)
Cream  ( and here I show my age and use the gift from the gods…fat free half and half…. though you wouldn’t know it to look at me….it is my favorite new diet food ingredient…guilt free and creamy !)                   
Prepare the ingredients….
this part takes the most time and involves some knife work so you might want to send Papa and the babes out for a long walk.
You probably have a favorite way to clean your leeks. I just cut the roots off, cut the tops off…leaving as much of the green as you can if in good shape, then I slice it in half lengthwise and rinse the hell out of it. Chop it all up into little pieces.
Slice all those mushrooms up. Same sized pieces. 1/8 ” wide.  I know, I know…there’s the time factor. Put on some good music and it goes faster.
Slice shallots if you’re feeling rich…same size.
Get a big pot.
Put about half a stick of butter in and let it melt over medium heat.
Throw in the leeks and shallots and saute over medium heat until soft. Don’t be tempted to turn up the heat just to make this part go faster…you want the juices to come out slowly and blend into the butter.
It’s all about the butter.
When you got them good and limp but not burnt…add the mushrooms and let them do the same thing…release their moisture and soften but not cook all the way to mush.
That whole sauteeing bit might take 20-30 minutes.
When it looks like they are congealing nicely you sprinkle some flour over the mixture…maybe 1/4 cup but not much more…and stir that in and let it cook a little bit.
Then you add the stock.
Anywhere from 3-6 cups and I know that’s a wide spread but it depends on how many of the leeks and mushrooms you start with. Remembering that you will finish this off with some cream, and that it will reduce down…it’s much easier to add more than take some away.
NOW you can turn down the heat and walk away…or clean up the mess you made so far.
Let that simmer for 30 minutes to an hour. Don’t boil it though. You are just reducing the liquid and melding the flavors all together.
Then, here’s the tricky bit.
IF you have a cuisinart, and I still have my original one which has been much abused but is a trooper,  you will now transfer the soup from the pot to the food processor in small batches and chop.
IF you do not have said processor you could use a blender but you don’t want baby food here, just a fine chop.
IF you have neither then don’t worry about it. Same exact taste. It’s just a texture thing and I usually make an unholy mess at this stage anyway so you can absolutely save yourself the trouble and go on to the last step.
Return whatever mixture you decide on to a medium heat and…
Add cream. 
As much as you want without it getting too thin. 1/2 cup to 2 cups. ( I like a super creamy soup so I usually add less stock in the beginning (more like 2-3 cups) and add more cream in the end…but Pat doesn’t like it too creamy so once a year I go for the cream and otherwise thin it down )
Serve with some kick ass bread and cheese.
That’s IT !!!!
When you go to reheat just make sure not to boil. Nuking is ok but I prefer slow warm ups on the stove top.
But then I don’t have those beautiful children clinging to my apron strings.
We only got a spitting of snow…ugh…but we are snuggly all the same and tonight I will head home on the early side to make soup and sit by the fire with my babe…and if I’ve left anything out I will email you an update tomorrow. It’s all in my head so you never know.
Love to all your sugar plum fairies…





Remembering another O

3 December 2008

The Queen of American Folk Music died yesterday.

Odetta –

Clicking on this photo will link you to a wonderful article in today’s NY Times and treat yourself to the video that is included. A rare opportunity to hear her heart.

(photo) Nancy Seisel, NYTimes

Old Trails

2 December 2008

A tip of the hat to Lin whose friend who verified that the gift of yesterday’s feathers came from a Yellow Shafted Flicker. We have a pair of flickers who live in the giant pin oak tree that grows between the studio and the log cabin. I’ll try to catch them at the feeders for a photo op … in the hopes that they are still with us that is.

This morning found Gully and I headed down the icy roads to our old walking trail along the railroad tracks. She and I spent the first decade of her life taking long walks in what was then a neglected series of fields and copses. Here is a look at an early painting from those tracks… Milkweed  (Clicking on the image will take you to the Painter’s Notes on my website.)


Last year they began building a monstrous new middle school on what we thought of as our own private pasture. In all the years we walked there I don’t remember seeing three other humans. Now, after months of destruction and earth moving, we returned to find a rolling landscape of mowed grasses, a playground and parking lot at one end, our swampy pathway paved over and most of the wetlands filled in.

I don’t know how this has impacted the wildlife in the area, since we didn’t see any I’m a bit worried.  But I have to say that the changes are not all together unwelcome for this older woman and her much older dog.

Today we had to stay off the paved paths as they were ice covered, and since the school children around here got monday off to go hunting…ugh…we were careful to both be covered in safety neon orange… but once we hit the earth it was sweet to walk without having to worry about ground hog holes … and swampy cold water seeping into our boots … and the small wandering creeks are still filled with that cool clear water that Gulliver loves to wade through… and with all the fields mowed we had much more room to run and roll.

I’ll keep my mind and my eyes open to what painting opportunities might be on this new horizon …and enjoy the gentler geriatric friendly tracks before us.

Go out and take your own selves for a walk today,


Morning Treasures…and a mystery.

1 December 2008

We have had a couple days of rain here along the little Conewago Creek. And the water is rising.

Gulliver and I were up early and tiptoed out of the cabin and over to the studio for our morning ritual walk to secure the perimeter… when I spotted a streak of yellow in the muddy leaves. Then another, and closer to the fireplace…several more. We followed the trail and came up with 15 or 16 feathers…and it looks like a near miss because these were the only parts to be found.

Morning Treasures

It was about this same time last year when I first received a gift of feathers from this same bird.

Then, there were two or three and they were beautifully layed out a thin crust of new snow. I didn’t recognize any winter birds with that much brilliant color so I gave one to Zola so we could both investigate which bird had offered them up.

The longest in this batch is 5 1/2 inches and the smallest is a very mish 1 1/2 inches. ( If your monitors are unreliable, the yellow is a true canary yellow and the black is raven.)

And now, it would seem, another … rather stronger… message. This bird is seriously trying to get my attention.   So, I am throwing it out there to you all.  I eagerly await hearing from you experts…Who is she ?

Meanwhile…back on the easel…I am struggling through the beginnings of a large portrait of the camp on the bluff and am relying on the continuing saga of Russell and Holmes to take my critical self away and free up my right brain to do its thing. We have finished our romp on the Moors and have now opened the door to a stranger…or is he ?

Ah… the mysteries.